SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - A poignant ceremony was held Thursday night in San Jose to remember those who have died or are living with AIDS. Dozens of people gathered at San Jose City Hall on World AIDS Day, where for the first time, the city hall tower was lit up in red.
One community member said other big cities like San Francisco and New York hold ceremonies recognizing World AIDS Day, but not San Jose and he wanted to change that.
"It was horrible sitting next to him on his bed and watching him wither away,” said Candelario Franco of San Jose.
Long-time San Jose resident Candelario Franco lost his friend to AIDS in 2010. His friend on his death bed asked Franco for a favor.
"It was to get the word out to make sure I do anything I can to make sure no one else succumbs to this disease,” said Franco.
This year, the Latino gay man wrote to the San Jose city council, asking to light the tower in red to raise awareness for World AIDS Day.
On Thursday night, the city lit the tower. Community members wore red ribbons and lit candles to remember. In Santa Clara County, 3,400 people have HIV or AIDS with 150 new cases a year.
"We are especially seeing increases in certain populations among young men ages 20 to 29 and especially among young Latino gay men, we are seeing the rates of new HIV increasing,” said Santa Clara County STD/HIV Controller Sara Lewis.
Bob Reed contracted HIV in 1982 and has lived with full-blown aids for years. He appreciates Thursday’s ceremony.
"The hope that it provides me is knowing that there are people who really do care,” said Bob Reed who is living with AIDS.
The 61-year-old San Jose resident takes five different anti HIV drugs saying the disease is now much more manageable.
"I look at the city hall being lit up in red and it gives me hope and just being in the physical presence of people gives me hope,” said Reed.
All of them hoping for an end to the epidemic and hoping to put an end to the stigma so more people will get tested.
"Even today, people talk about HIV and they are still whispering. It's not time to whisper anymore, the whispering has to stop,” said Franco.
The Circle of Palms by the San Jose downtown ice rink and San Jose’s Civic Auditorium were also lit up in red. Community members hope to get more buildings and the City Hall Rotunda in red next year.